At the time, I didn't. Quite frankly, for the most part, I still don't but I can appreciate them a lot more in retrospect. There's a certain level of creativity involved in trying to convert a 3D console game into a portable 2D pixelated one that's recognizable to fans of the original. A lot of these "downsized" conversions fall short of their source material, but I think some of that might be due to unfair expectations of players. As I mentioned before, it's easy to view these as inferior to the "real" versions and not give them a second look. I still hear people scoff when I mention Ghost Babel as being a great Metal Gear game because oftentimes it's just not seen as a "real" Metal Gear game. I'm not going to argue that point this time though, and instead will just point to Ghost Babel as an example of a stellar job in bringing a console experience to a much less powerful machine. It's also a good example since I was mostly thinking of Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance when I became interested in this topic. Without blathering on any further, I think it's time to start looking at some of the MANY examples of these console conversions.
The EXTREME Sports Game
Ahh yes, thanks Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. There were certainly extreme sports games previously like California Games, 720, and Skate or Die, but I don't think many people will argue against THPS's popularity. The original PS1 game was a smash hit that created an extensive franchise, so it's only natural there would be portable offerings of Tony Hawk on the GBC and GBA (and don't forget about that N-gage version!)
On GBC, the original THPS consisted of two modes: an over-head race mode and a half-pipe mode seen from a 2D side perspective. The half-pipe looks like it would get old pretty fast but at least is true to the original concept of getting scored for doing tricks. The race mode... that one I don't quite get if we're talking about trying to capture the spirit of the console version. The sequel as well as the third game on GBC seem to try and follow the classic formula a little closer, giving players an "open" map that they can freely explore in a top-down-like fashion while they execute tricks and find pickups. More faithful may not be better in this case though, as it seems like that perspective just doesn't allow players to see enough to be able to plan their next trick.
The GBA Tony Hawk legacy doesn't end there though, and there's one last entry that tried to push against the limitations of the GBA even further with the 2006 release of Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam. Yes, the 2006 release of a GBA game. It was released two weeks after the DS version and two weeks before the Wii version, which would be followed by the PS2 version released in 2007. What a crazy mess of releases of the "same" game. Sorry for getting sidetracked, I just got hung up on that while I was looking up info on the game.
Anyway, the GBA version of Downhill Jam is a truly 3D game. That's right, no isometric BS here, just horrible draw distances and polygons with nearly no textures. It's an impressive technical feat, but it obviously doesn't hold up very well and looks sluggish. Still, bless their hearts for trying.
Moving away from skateboards, but wanting more of that sweet, sweet cash from THPS style games, Activision published Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX (GBC/GBA). Of course it wasn't just Activision that had a BMX game, and it wasn't just BMX when it came to extreme sports represented on handhelds. Acclaim had Aggressive Inline (GBA) and Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX (GBC) with 2 sequels (GBA) while Activision's extreme sports lineup included Shaun Palmer's Snowboarder (GBC/GBA) and Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer (GBA). Without going into EXTREME (sorry) detail, these all play identically to the styles I've mentioned above, minus the full 3D approach of Downhill Jam, so I don't think I need to address each one individually. I will however add that there were GBC and GBA versions of Razor Freestyle Scooter. They're still more of that standard isometric view we see in all of these games, I just nearly had forgotten how popular those things were around 2000. Oi, these games are making me feel old...
With that, I think it's time to draw this thing to a close. Frankly, I've looked at more isometric games than I would have liked to see in a lifetime and I think I've covered the majority of bigger name titles. There were a few sports represented in the MTV Sports games, but again, they're very similar to the other more well-known titles mentioned above. Aside from the console versions of THPS 1-3, I can't say I have a lot of personal experience with these games but there were so many and they all had to tackle the issue of converting a polygonal 3D game into something playable on a much less powerful handheld, I couldn't just ignore them. Regardless, bear with me as I think I'll tackle a genre I'm more attached to in my next installment of this series.
For now, I leave you with some final musings-
A miserable, deplorable ad for THPS and the N-gage:
as well as this hilariously awful intro to Shaun Palmer's Pro Snowboarding (GBC) complete with attempts at FMV: